Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Driver Endures Up-and-Down Day

Date: June 30, 2013

Event: Kentucky 400 (Round 17 of 36)

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (1.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish: 25th/20th (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)

Point Standing: 16th (457 points, 153 out of first; 22 behind 10th)

Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Tony Stewart started 25th and finished 20th in the Kentucky 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. 

While it wasn’t a finish to be remembered, Stewart had to work all day for it after waiting all night, as the race was postponed from Saturday night due to rain.

His No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was either too loose or too tight during the 267-lap race around the incredibly bumpy 1.5-mile oval. Nonetheless, Stewart climbed as high as fourth by lap 84 thanks to tenacious driving and savvy pit calls by crew chief Steve Addington. 

Unfortunately, what seemed to be a slowly deflating tire dropped Stewart from the top-10 to 26th by lap 120. Stewart was the last driver on the lead lap, but he rode it out until a timely caution on lap 149 allowed him to pit. The right side of the car checked out OK, and with four fresh tires, a full tank of fuel and some tweaks to the chassis, Stewart was on his way. He restarted 22nd on lap 155.

The car’s ill handling continued to rear its head, as Stewart radioed on lap 161 that he had “no grip”. The Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy became even looser as laps clicked off the board. 

On the team’s final pit stop while under caution on lap 243, a bevy of changes was made, which included adjusting the car’s nose weight. 

Stewart restarted in 17th. When leader Jimmie Johnson spun to bring out the race’s final caution on lap 248, Stewart moved up to 16th.

A top-15 finish seemed possible, but in what has become commonplace lately in the Sprint Cup Series, the restart resulted in a mad dash. The field went racing three-wide into turn one, and Stewart was forced to the outside where he had to tip-toe through the gray asphalt where grip was nearly non-existent. In one lap, Stewart dropped from 16th to 23rd. But as is Stewart’s nature, he didn’t quit, rallying his way to 20th in the final 15 laps.

“We made a bunch of changes to the car throughout the race,” Stewart said. “When we started out, it felt like it was up on top of the racetrack. We needed it to get planted better. We made gains, but we eventually got it to where it was too tight into turns one and two. Then on that final restart where we got forced high – turns one and two were already tough enough for us – I had to pedal it, and we lost a bunch of spots. We got some of them back, but track position being what it was, it was hard to get any more of them back. Not the greatest showing, but we did what we could with it.”

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for SHR, finished 14th. Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 23rd.

Matt Kenseth won the Kentucky 400 to score his 28th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading fourth of the season and his first at Kentucky.

Jamie McMurray finished .699 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 10 caution periods for 42 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish. 

With round 17 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He dropped one spot to 16th and has 457 points, 153 back of series leader Johnson and 22 behind 10th-place Logano. Newman maintained his 18th-place standing and has 448 points, 162 out of first and 31 behind Logano. Patrick maintained her 27th-place standing and has 313 points, 297 behind Johnson and 166 away from 10th.

Nine races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Kasey Kahne and Stewart are the only drivers between 11th and 20th in points with a victory, so they hold the first and second wild-card spots, respectively.

Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished six spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 17th. 

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola on Saturday, July 6 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.